I got up early. I had taken Caleb's advice and put the picture beside the one of me and my dad on my dresser. It did look good there and I sighed.
"I miss you, tată," I whispered. "I've made two awesome friends. I think you'd like them; especially Luther. He reminds me a lot of you. Caleb... he's a good guy. I think he's just been a little confused when he was growing up after his parents divorced. I don't know. Well, I've got to get ready. I'm meeting his mom today. I'm nervous. I don't know if we're even a couple. We've kissed a few times and I like him. I'm confused, tată. He's even acting different. I wish you were here to tell me what to do about him."
I sighed and kissed the picture. I opened the dresser and changed into a pair of red yoga pants. I put on a black, long sleeved shirt with a square cut top. It showed a little cleavage and I hoped his mom wouldn't be scandalized. I put on a necklace and my usual black tennis shoes. I was just finishing up my makeup when Caleb called me.
"I hope you're ready because I forgot to call you and I'm in your driveway."
I rolled my eyes. "Gee, thanks for the warning." He laughed. "I'm ready. Just let me grab my keys and my phone."
"Um... your phone is in your hand, Mirela. You're talking to me on it."
"Oh! Shit. Right. I'll be right out."
I sighed. Great. I haven't even left my house yet and I was embarrassing myself. I took a few deep breaths.
I left and grabbed my keys. I locked up and hurried to his car. It had started to sprinkle. He smiled at me.
"You look nice," he said. "Trying to impress my mom?"
"No," I said, avoiding his eyes. "I just... felt like dressing up, that's all."
"Uh-huh," he said sarcastically. "Sure you did."
"Just shut up and drive," I snapped. "Are we going to her house?"
"No. We're meeting her at her favorite steak restaurant."
"Mmm, steak," I said appreciatively. "What's her name?"
"You'll find out," he said lightly and I glared at him.
"Rude," I said.
My leg started to jiggle; a nervous habit. I bit my lip and tugged at my hair. Yes, I was trying to impress her. And yes, I was nervous as hell. I still didn't know if Caleb and I were dating and had a feeling she would ask. My mom surely will when she meets Caleb. Come to think of it, she hadn't made any indication she'd want to meet him.... Maybe after she sees the pictures and hears what he's been doing for me, she will.
It was raining heavily by the time we got to the restaurant. I gawked at the line but, thankfully, Luther had gone to church with her and they got there before us. I hesitated before getting out of the car.
"Come on, Mirela," he said. "She's an awesome person. You'll be fine."
"What if she doesn't like me?" I asked.
He stared at me, his eyes confused, and I knew mine were, too. I knew we were thinking the same thing: Why was I asking?
He cleared his throat. "Well, let's go find out."
"Right," I said quickly and got out.
We waited for a car to pass us and jogged in out of the rain. Luther was sitting with a woman who looked a lot like Tom but Caleb had her pretty hazel eyes. She had blond hair. Luther saw us and waved his arm. The woman, who had been looking at a menu, grinned when she saw us. She was sitting on the outside of the booth and pulled her son into a hug.
"It's so good to see you, Caleb!" she said. "I'm sorry I've been out of touch. They're keeping me busy at church."
He kissed her cheek. "Don't worry about it. Mom, this is-"
She gasped and grinned. "Mirela! Oh, you're as beautiful as Luther's been saying!"
I blushed and let her hug me as Caleb sat down.
"It's great to meet you, Miss Parrish."
She scoffed. "Oh, please, call me Catherine."
I laughed breathlessly. "Okay."
"Sit down," she insisted and I sat beside Caleb, across from her. "And don't look so nervous, silly girl. Do you like steak?"
"What Oklahoman doesn't?" I blurted and she laughed.
"Oh, we're going to get along just fine, my dear!"
I smiled and opened the menu. Caleb leaned over.
"You're doing fine," he whispered. "Chill out."
"Easy for you to say," I said through clenched teeth. "Besides, I have some admirers two tables over."
He looked and his eyes darkened. Two men were openly staring at me.
"Don't," I said, not getting out of the booth even though he pushed on me. "Just sit down and chill."
He scoffed. "There's the pot calling the kettle black."
I stuck my tongue out at him and he did the same. Catherine giggled and I blushed.
"So, what do you do Mirela?" she asked. "These two have been keeping me in the dark!"
"I'm a website builder and consultant," I answered. "I also do some tech support, depending on the issue."
"Wow. How long did you go to college to do that?"
I shifted uncomfortably. "Well... I wasn't able to go to college. It's always come naturally to me."
Her eyes flickered but she didn't press the subject. I noticed her smile was a little frozen in place. She didn't say anything for a while and I rubbed the back of my neck.
"C-Caleb said you're retired," I said and she nodded. "What did you do?"
"I was an insurance saleswoman," she said proudly. "I was the best on my team."
The waiter put our plates in front of us, giving me a reason not to make a bigger fool out of myself. To my surprise, Caleb put his hand on my leg briefly then started his meal. I could feel the men's eyes still on me and I gripped my fork so hard I was shaking as I lifted the broccoli to my mouth.
"What's wrong, Mirela?" Luther asked.
"Can I help you?" I snapped at the men.
"Actually, you can," one of them said. "You can take that pretty shirt off and give us a show."
Caleb opened his mouth angrily but I beat him to it.
"What'll you give me in return?" I asked flirtatiously.
"Mirela," he hissed but I elbowed him in the stomach.
The two men smirked at each other. "Fifty dollars," he said and I stood up.
"Fifty bucks, huh?" I asked, sauntering over. "That's tempting."
I saw the manager watching me nervously, obviously afraid I'd really flash the men.
"So, what do you say?" the second one said and I leaned on his table.
"Whatcha drinking there?" I asked.
"Beer; Miller Light. You want a sip?"
"It's tradition where I come from to take a sip from both cups," I said smoothly and I heard Caleb snort.
"Gladly," the men said in unison and passed me their cups at the same time.
I looked between the two. "Hmm. Whose should I drink from first? Idiot number one, or idiot number two?"
"You might want to get some towels," I heard Caleb say to the manager in a quiet voice.
"Why?" the manager whispered just as the first guy said, "Drink from both. It's so- What the fuck?"
I tossed their beers on both of them. They sat in shock, spluttering beer out of their mouth.
"That's for gawking," I snapped. "Keep your eyes to yourselves."
I turned and sat back down. The restaurant erupted into applause and I jumped, unaware I had been watched. Luther was bent double laughing and Catherine's smile was one of respect. Caleb was shaking his head and stuck a fry in his mouth.
"What is it with you and dumping liquid on guys who offend you?" he asked and I laughed.